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Open Call: Material Conditions 2

Nine years ago Proboscis commissioned a series of bookleteer publications called Material Conditions, inviting creative practitioners to respond – however they wished – to the question of what are the material conditions for being creative now? In 2011 we were just beginning to feel the first bites of “austerity” that the ruling UK Coalition government was starting to implement, on top of more than two years of cuts and changes caused by the 2008 financial crisis and its subsequent fallout.

Nine years later, we have witnessed the impact of austerity and related policies adversely affect civil society and people in numerous ways. Many egregious examples are set out in the 2019 report of the UN Special Rapporteur (Philip Alston) and documented elsewhere in cases such as the “Windrush Generation’s” terrible experiences of the “Hostile Environment”, the increasing number of deaths (especially suicides) of people with disabilities denied state benefits by being wrongfully assessed as “able” to work (often when demonstrably incapacitated or even with terminal conditions), or those “sanctioned” from receiving benefits for minor infringements or justifiably missed interviews. The sheer number of appeals the government loses in such cases (up to 80% in some areas) reveals the nature of this ideological assault.

Beyond this, there are social and cultural shifts that have occurred too. The increasing intolerance against people from abroad who have made their lives here; the growing confidence of explicit racism and hate for ‘difference’ of all kinds. The worrying advance of populist and nationalist tendencies and agendas, as well as the abandonment of the UK’s established role in Europe for an incoherent future of false promises and jingoistic hyperbole.

And in the past few months, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen a right-wing ‘Conservative’ government forced to adopt state-led interventionist policies of a type that they ridiculed in an election just a few months previously. Even then, their management of the situation has been haphazard at best, disingenuous and deceitful at worst, as well as incompetent and irresponsible in practice.

Over the past couple of months I have been contemplating how to respond to the pandemic and what Proboscis can do in our own small way. My first instinct was to act immediately, but then the potential of slowing down, of taking stock, of not being reactive but proactive took hold. Our daily lives, ways of working and methods of engagement have been drastically altered in the past few months, and the longer term outlook is that this will continue – not merely in direct response of the pandemic, but in concert with all the other forces, such as climate change impacts, which are just beginning to be felt. We are not going back to ‘normal’, no matter how much we may try or wish to. There is only going forwards and choosing to make a different future.

So what, in 2020, are the material conditions for being a responsible creative practitioner? How do we continue to make work that is socially, culturally and politically relevant? What adaptations – to modes, methods, materials, tools and venues – will we need to make as we move forwards? For many, being a creative practitioner is not just a career choice to earn an income but a vocation, a calling. How do we adapt to the changing circumstances and keep faith, keep true to our calling, foster hope in darkening times?

Viral Commissioning & Open Call

Over the past 25 years I have commissioned hundreds of different people to make pieces for publication – sometimes essays and articles, sometimes visual artworks, sometimes hybrid ‘projects’. I have always tried to commission pieces from new people and not to rely on a ‘pool’ of existing contributors. However, my reach is limited – my networks grow slowly and fitfully, a process that requires an ongoing diligence for developing new contacts and making new relationships.

So I have been pondering alternative ways to broaden out who participates and can use this platform to share their voice and perspective. This is more vital than ever given all the pressures described above and recent events around the world. Forces of oppression are visible everywhere, unleashed and egged on by would-be authoritarian regimes, revelling in the chaos and using the distractions for their own nefarious purposes.

One potential route is to adopt a ‘viral’ commissioning model, whereby I initiate a sequence of commissions and then invite those contributors to nominate and broker an exchange with a further person from their own networks to commission, who then nominates a further person and so on (with the aim that nominees ought not have previously been commissioned by Proboscis or bookleteer).

Another way is to adopt the ‘open call’ method and ask people to self-submit a publication on bookleteer and then to review and select from whatever is proposed to add to the series.

For Materials Conditions 2 I propose to utilise both methods.

The proviso is that Proboscis no longer has the ability to remunerate contributors financially. We stopped receiving grant funding for such activities from Arts Council England in 2012; bookleteer operates as a self-publishing platform that doesn’t charge users for its services (except for physical print-on-demand options) and its (minimal) running costs are covered by Proboscis from our income on other projects. I remain loathe to tie this activity into the agendas of funding organisations like ACE in exchange for (often inadequate) grant monies, so will explore alternative strategies for rewarding contributors.

Revisiting the Periodical

One option might be to initiate a new version of the Periodical – our former monthly subscription service (2012-15) which posted out selected bookleteer publications that had been professionally printed and bound using our print on demand service. Instead of remuneration, selected authors (who had already self-published on bookleteer) received 25 copies of their printed publication each.

A monthly service would be unfeasible now, both economically and practically. However, a twice or possibly three times a year posting out of selected publications could be viable.

It might also be a suitable way to develop a community around the Material Conditions 2 series – people who are invested reciprocally both as participating authors and members of an audience for the ideas and experiences of others.

If any of these possibilities interests you – contributing to the series or subscribing to a new version of the Periodical – please leave a comment to this post or respond via Twitter or on bookleteer’s Facebook page.

No rush: let’s do things slowly, with care and consideration.

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inspiration library gems

From the Archives: Week 10

Our 10th week of lockdown selections from the archives of diffusion.org.uk and bookleteer’s own Public Library are below.
Follow the series day by day on twitter at #makingreading:

  1. The Octuplet: Story of Our Lives by Babette Wagenvoort (2009)
  2. The Island Bell by Katherine Meynell (2000)
  3. Pride Of The Moor – a song to Dartmoor’s tin by Jim Causley & Simon Pope (2010)
  4. Marseille Mix – turn down the heat by William Firebrace (2008)
  5. The Petition of Right (1628), Grand Remonstrance (1641) & Charter88 (1988) by various (2015)
  6. Canyon Flow by Joyce Majiski & Zea Morvitz (2014)
  7. A London Childhood 1926-1939 by Henry Long (2014)
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inspiration library gems

From the Archives : Week 9

More selections from the archives of diffusion.org.uk and bookleteer’s own Public Library are below.
Follow the series day by day on twitter at #makingreading:

  1. H2O by Alejandra Canales, Anne Ransquin & Juan F. Salazar (2009)
  2. An Agreement of the Free People of England (1649) & The People’s Charter (1838) by John Lilburne et al & The Chartists (2015)
  3. The Anthropofferjist Charles Dickens: “Wapping Ghost Ship” by Steve Beard (2002)
  4. Code by Gair Dunlop (2012)
  5. Sea Shanties collated by Francis McKee (2008).
  6. He Who Sleeps Dines by London Fieldworks (Bruce Gilchsrist & Jo Joelson, 2011)
  7. The Thetford Travelling Menagerie by DodoLab (Andrew Hunter & Lisa Hirmer, 2011)

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inspiration library gems

From the Archives: Week 8

Another serving of selections from the archives of diffusion.org.uk and bookleteer’s own Public Library are below.
Follow the series day by day on twitter at #makingreading:

  1. The Fact of the Matter by Anne Tallentire & Monica Ross (2000)
  2. Tender Buttons by Gertrude Stein – 4 books (1914/2008)
  3. Play Guide – Outside The Box by Proboscis (2013)
  4. Phantom Shifts: Performance Notations by Aaron Williamson (2000)
  5. Recollections of Geo. Benford & O’Shea by Alf & Nance Wood (2014)
  6. Landscape 3 Acts: Return • Dispersal • Circulation by Kathryn Yusoff (2006)
  7. The New Wizard of the West by Chauncy Montgomery M’Govern (1899/2013)
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inspiration library gems

From the Archives: Week 7

More selections from the archives of diffusion.org.uk and bookleteer’s own Public Library are below.
Follow the series day by day on twitter at #makingreading:

  1. River Gap by Ben Eastop (2011)
  2. State of the Union by Robert Ransick (2009)
  3. Landscapes In Dialogue: reflections by Alice Angus (2010)
  4. A Manual for Maverick Machines by Karen Martin (2007)
  5. – – – – by Michael Atavar (2002)
  6. The Show by desperate optimists (2011)
  7. Skyline & Sightlines by Simon Pope (2011)

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Beltane Offerings

Two new eBooks have been recently published with bookleteer, both by long time friends and collaborators of Proboscis:

Charlie Gere’s – Poems From My Chinese Typewriter

and Gareth Evans and Andrew Kötting’s, Another Alphabetarium of Kötting

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inspiration library gems

From the Archives: Week 6

This week’s selections from the archives of diffusion.org.uk and bookleteer’s own Public Library are below.
Follow the series day by day on twitter at #makingreading:

  1. Common Sense by Thomas Paine (1776/2008)
  2. Hard Hearted Hannah: Classics from Nowhere (Part 1 of 6) by Cartoon de Salvo (2010)
  3. The 36 Stratagems by anonymous (c.1600s/2009)
  4. Seven Days in Seven Dials: A Week in the Life of London’s Cultural Quarters (1 of 3) by Dan Thompson et al (2010)
  5. Remix Reconvex Reconvexo by Karla Brunet (2010)
  6. Towards Psychonutrition by John Hartley (2011)
  7. Layered City As Material: Underside by Alex Deschamps-Sonsino et al (2010)
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inspiration library gems

From the Archives: Week 5

Here are the latest treasures surfaced from the archives of diffusion.org.uk and bookleteer’s own Public Library. Follow the series day by day on twitter at #makingreading:

  1. Double culpability/ double subjectivity: Thomson & Craighead’s A Short Film about War by Lisa Le Feuvre (2010)
  2. Dal Riata – A Little Tactile History Of A Scottish Kingdom by Alastair Somerville (2014)
  3. A Conversation Between Trees by Active Ingredient (2011)
  4. Excavations in the Temple Precinct of Dangeil, Sudan by Julie Anderson & Salah Mohamed Ahmed (2010)
  5. Beasts and Super Beasts by Saki [H H Munro] (1914/2008)
  6. Recollections by Harold Lun (2014)
  7. Trail Song by Julie Myers (2009)
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inspiration library gems

Inspiration From the Archives

Over the past four weeks I have been making selections from our archives of some of the most wonderful publications I have had the privilege of commissioning, supporting or creating. Here is the first batch of selections, spanning both diffusion.org.uk and bookleteer’s own Public Library, added to each day on our Twitter account and searchable by the hashtag #makingreading. All are free to download, print out and make up, and some can be read online in their bookreader form:

  1. Dispersals by Gair Dunlop (2013)
  2. making/do by Jane Prophet (2011)
  3. The New Worker’s Songbook Songwriters’ Workbook for New Worksongs! by Tor Lukasik-Foss (2011)
  4. If London Were Like Venice Oh! That It Were!” by Somers L. Summers (1899/2012)
  5. Phantom Tomes from an imaginary library by Clara Angus Lane & Giles Lane (2017)
  6. Blakewalk 3 by Tim Wright (2009)
  7. Spaces and Places of Convergence by Anne Galloway (2006)
  8. Dominion Dundas by Seth (2009)
  9. Whisker Issue One by Hazem Tagiuri et al (2013)
  10. Aerial Stories: notes about gravity, bodies and the view out the window by Louise K Wilson (2005)
  11. Out of it, Into It by Deborah Levy (2002)
  12. Bottle Orchestra by Tony White (2007)
  13. Hackney Rebel by Dawes Gray (2014)
  14. An A-Z of The Ting: Theatre of Mistakes – A by Marie-Anne Mancio (Part 1 of a 16 book set, 2009)
  15. The Robinson Institute by Patrick Keiller (2002) 
  16. The Cabinet of Alchemical Curiosities by Joyce MajiskiZea Morvitz (2019)
  17. Waiting For Crisis by Will Davies (2009)
  18. The Psychogeography of Zeros and Ones by Stewart Home (2002)
  19. Picnic: order, ambiguity and community by Kevin Harris (2011)
  20. Voiceover by Mohini Chandra (2002)
  21. Poets from the Horizon: Scrapbook of Words by Poets of New Horizons Centre, Peter Baxter & Rosie Knight (2015)
  22. Single Step Guide to Success – Day Planning by Heath Bunting (2006)
  23. The Life and Adventures of the Celebrated Walking Stewart: including his travels in the East Indies, Turkey, Germany, and America by a Relative (1822/2010)
  24. specious spacious by William Firebrace (2002)
  25. Travelling Through Layers by Alice Angus, Giles Lane & Orlagh Woods (2009)
  26. Systems/Layers by Nurri Kim & Adam Greenfield (2011)
  27. Areopagitica by John Milton (1644/2013)
  28. Professor Starling’s Thetford-London-Oxford Expedition by Professor William Starling (Andrew T Hunter), Lisa Hirmer, Leila Armstrong, Josie Mills, Hazem Tagiuri & Giles Lane (3 books, 2012)

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Making Custom Notebooks

We have been making custom project notebooks for many years – they are very popular with participants in workshops or when doing field work as we can make them bespoke for the purpose, and the participants can personalise them as they wish.

Our TK Reite Notebooks project is perhaps the classic example, but we have made many others, such as the recent Field & Group Notebooks for the Antarctic Cities Youth Expedition.

Here is a simple guide to help understand the steps in the process.

Download the PDF here.